New,good stories… what do they take and where do they start from?

The source of a great story has always been, for me at least, an interesting aspect. How did Tolkien get the inspiration to create an entire world, with its own mythology and history? How did Asimov get the inspiration to write his sci-fi novels?

Though it’s not hard to tell what exactly it would take to express ideas into a likeable, coherent manner, not the same can be said about the source of the ideas.  As I’ve said in a previous post, it’s all about a good story, told well. I don’t think Lord of the Rings would have gathered as many fans as it did, should it have been written in another style. Tolkien had a great way of describing situations, whilst Clancy ( Rainbw Six) is more technical-oriented. Tolkien wrote pure fantasy, whilst Clancy writes a more realistic, military type of novel.

When writing a story for a TV show, the approach is a bit different.  The scripts are similar to theater plays’ scripts. The writer gets to indicate the environment in which the story is taking place, some of the emotions the actor needs to act… I am not trying to say it’s easier to write a novel or a TV script, as they both have their particularities.  I am sure, however, that they are all based on a little experience the author had or thought about. An idea, a thought which triggered the story. Although we don’t all get inspired by the same things, almost anybody can write a story. And, with a little bit of practice, we can all write the next Dune.

What makes a TV show… successful?

As a TV enthusiast, I’ve often asked myself: “What exactly do I like about this show? What makes me wait, impatiently, for the next episode?” Although the answer to the question  may vary, from show to show, I’ve noticed that a few aspects remain unchanged. I’ll go through them in the following paragraphs.

The story and the storytelling: One of the most important aspects, for me, would be the story. It doesn’t really have to be new and revolutionary, nor does it have to create a new niche… It just needs to be well told. A good story told poorly is, in my opinion, the same as a bad story. In the same manner, a poor story written and enacted with style is desirable to a good story told poorly. The subject of the story is less relevant. I may prefer a romantic comedy now, and 2 months later prefer war stories. But I always enjoy a great story told well.

The cast: Since this is about TV shows, the cast plays a crucial role, and not just for the image. A good story needs to be enacted well, as well. TV shows, or soap operas have been known to be a launching pad for great actors (similar to the classical theater). The actors don’t have to be perfect, not in looks and not in “acting styles”, but they need to be adequate for the role they are playing. This is why I actually respect good casting directors. They are, some of the times, the ones who get to influence the direct outcome of the show.

The image: As a former part-time, freelancing video editor and CGI Artist, I am tempted to analyze what I see in a more detailed manner. This is one of the reasons for which, in a previous post, I was mentioning the colors and the visual style of the shows.

Proper marketing: Not as obvious as it would seem… TV Shows are, after all, a product, meant to entertain. If you are trying to sell a chocolate bar, you’ll try to advertise it. The same goes for TV shows, as well. If you start with a large base audience, you are more likely to succeed. Information is traveling extremely fast these days, so there are a lot of ways to advertise the shows. In a later post, perhaps I would go into greater detail concerning this topic, as there are some really interesting advertisement campaigns.
Staying constant and not over-stretching: Although I love twists and turns, if the story goes 180 degrees, I am likely to lose interest. Over-stretching the story is another undesirable feature for me. I used to like “The Mentalist”, but the whole “Red John’s dead – Red John is still alive” became boring for me.

 

-Mircea

Dexter (2006 – )

 

I still recall that, when I started to wach Dexter I was a little reluctant. The bloody story the show revolves around is not usually something to the tastes of a girl. Given these aspects, I have to admit that Dexter does attract, keeping you hooked with his dark charm, managing to take your breath away, up until there is no way out anymore.

I have to say that, to me, it’s quite captivating to watch a serial killer in action; and I guarantee it will be the same, for you. Our ineffable, dark side (the dark passenger, as Dexter himself reffers to it), lurks in a latent state, and it enjoys watching the way of life and expression of one who allows their dark side to express itself , unsuppressed.

What’s even more impressive is Dexter’s voice, narrating throughout the show, explaining how the killer thinks and acts. It may be surprising how, in other people’s minds, a killer also has an innocent side, similar to a child. Surprising and delightful, in the same time.

A more than attractive show, with a cast not too close to perfection, but with a story that is bound to fascinate all of us.

-Rux

Arrow (2012)

A new arrival on the successful series category is Arrow…. or the classic superhero story.

Even if you’re not an enthusiast of action shows, with a certain amount of SciFi dosage, I can guarantee that Arrow will at least get you to turn your head, even starting with the pilot episode.

A bit of action, attractive actors, a rich guy whose temper got adjusted wit an accident, and who is then brought back to reality by his dad; an attractive, young miss lawyer, a fantasy city lead by corrupt people, the wish for vengeance, a mission accepted on the father’s behalf, an story about an impossible love and tons of intricate plots.

Simply put, a successful recipe for a show you would watch with your boyfriend, on a Friday evening

-Rux

What I’d like to watch today…How I met Your Mother!

Curiously enough, I actually found some time to think about shows I would love to watch again… Since the weekend is so close, and weekend evening are perfect for tasks such as sitting on a couch (or even better, in bed) and watching shows, I first thought I should see Friends again. I’ve seen that show a dozen times, but I know I will watch it another 200 times if I’ll have the time. Then, a new idea struck me… How about “How I met your mother?”

Yes, that nice little show, which tries to describe the adventures a young architect ( Ted Mosby) lived, before meeting the mother of his children. I watched the first 3 seasons in a weekend ( I found out about the show when they were shooting the 5th season, so I had a lot of catching up to do) and I loved it all. It was, following a simple recipe: comedy, romance, some witty comments and remarks and some well-placed satirical observations, here and there. It may be a subjective remark (the satire part), as I tend to see sarcasm everywhere (unlike poor Sheldon of Big Bang Theory). I thought about watching HIMYM again just because… the first 3 seasons were actually funny! The show went through a bad couple of seasons (in my opinion, again), and it was rather boring, for a while. It’s as if all the funny stories ended, and there’s nothing new for me to experience there! so what do you do? watch the same show again, of course! From the start!

Now… As this board is intended to make other users aware of the shows we can watch, out there, here’s a brief sneak-peek (as usual, the “no spoilers”policy applies):

Ted Mosby, architect, is continuously looking for the woman of his dreams. His major flaw (arguable as it may be) is that he falls in love too easily. The second his eyes rest upon a woman, his heart skips a beat (or two, or three) and he falls in love. When that happens, Ted tends to say inappropriate things ( I love you, after the first date is just one of them). I don’t know how popular this is elsewhere, but the show actually lead to a catchphrase: “You pulled a Mosby” (not original, sure, Friends did that with “you pulled a Monica”; HIMYM does resemble Friends in some aspects, and it does reuse, at times, some of the old show’s jokes.).

He has a few good friends (Marshall, Lily, Robin – although he meets Robin during the show, not beforehand- and good ol’ Barney Stinson). From all characters, Barney is the only character who never got old (as in stopped being funny). I’ve laughed at Barney’s jokes even the the show gave me a “mneah…so what?” feeling. He’s great to watch as his one and only goal in life is to… sleep with women! (another aspect HIMYM takes from Firends is that nobody knows what Barney really does at work. Unlike Chandler, however, Barney doesn’t share the job description, so the reason behind the lack of knowledge is different)

So, provided that I will actually have time for such endeavors in the weekend evenings, I will watch it! The first 3 seasons are just great, so you should give the show a chance, as well!

 

-Mircea

Actors, directors, writers… But what about the musicians?

Yesterday’s post was dedicated to the video editors. As video editing does have a special place in my heart, we will discuss about that later on, in what I still hope will become a full-length video documentary. We all love bloopers and “behind the scenes”, so I believe it would be interesting to watch, for entertainment purposes, if nothing else.

Today, I thought I ought to talk another sometimes overlooked part of the entire process that goes into creating a new episode from our TV series: the sounds.

Music has always been part of man’s life, and it is no different in TV shows. It takes quite a lot of patience and dedication to become a musician, not to mention a great musician. However, when working at a TV show, it’s important to keep a sense of measure in your work. And that may prove hard, at times, for a musician. Why is music important, and why should we acknowledge the role musicians play in a TV Show? Let’s start with the most basic of elements: the music track in the show’s opening. You know your favorite show started, because you can hear that special tune you have associated with the show you were looking forward to. Having a catchy, unique, pleasant tune to start your show can be just as important as having a great portfolio of special effects, for example.

TV Shows should be an immersive experience. They should keep you in the story, as if you were there. Keep in mind that, unlike a full length movie, where you have several hours to go through the emotions palette the director/writers intended you to, you only have 30-45 minutes to do so in a TV episode (although it’s quite common to have episodes that last up to 1 hour, lately). With books, you have so much more time to go through the emotions, but that is another aspect, and we’ll bring that into discussion at a later point in time. So, musical pieces intended for TV Sows tend to be a bit more dramatic, to enhance the experience.

I mentioned, a bit earlier, that the musicians needs to keep a sense of measure when working for TV shows. Imagine how unpleasant it would be to have a tune that makes you feel sad, when the two main characters in the show finally fall in love. The musical pieces need to pass a certain emotion, and they need to do it in a proper manner in a TV show. The problem with music is that its interpretation is generally a very subjective matter. A song that makes one happy may make another person sad. We tend to associate, unconsciously, sounds to experiences in our lives. Or sounds with other sounds. But the general idea is to write a tune that would lead to the desired emotion, for most of the viewers.

I had to keep today’s post shorter, so this should be it. We can discuss more, however. Just write a comment and we can talk about it.

Until next time, let’s try to remember that TV Shows are created for our enjoyment, and that they generally take a lot of hard work to make.

Actors, directors, writers… But what about the editors?

I want to make today’s post about the people who stay away from the spotlight, most of the times: the video editors.  There’s a lot going on behind the scenes, when new episodes are created. The actors play their parts, the directors make sure it all comes into place as the envisioned it and the writers… well, the writers write (hopefully) a good, immersive story. Special effects specialists add  a realistic dimension to the story, together with make-up artists and wardrobe designers. And, of course, there’s the sound editors, together with the composers, who add a little musical touch (albeit remaining unnoticed, at times).  But there’s so much more to it! Light specialists, making sure that the light is the way the director and the writers imagined it, and that the shadows fall into place exactly where they should. The devil is in the details, they say, and the audience needs to notice little details that would have an important role in the story, later on. Then, there’s the cameraman, or the team of camera technicians, who make sure that the lenses are the correct ones, and that it’s all shot in that gorgeous 1080p, or higher resolutions. Yet, there’s another team behind it all: the editors.

Their job is not as simple as it may seem, as their job is to put it all together, both artistically and technically. They get footage, directions, sounds, effects, and they need to make it all come into place, like a huge, digital, entertaining puzzle. What do editors do, exactly?

It all starts with the concept. The editors usually get their directions from the director himself, and corroborate the details with the other teams ( audio engineers, special effects specialists and so on). The editor(s) gets a bunch of material ( what used to be old rolls of film, has now been replaced with huge video files). Their job is to take out the portions of the video that does not fall into place properly (mistakes, bloopers) and leave only what is truly as it’s supposed to be. Back in the day, it was sometimes the director who was undertaking the task, by cutting the rolls, and then gluing them back together. Now, it’s all digital. And the cutting part is done in a virtual space, by people who dedicated quite a lot of their time to perfecting the skills needed to do a proper edit (you can sometimes see when a new or untalented editor did the cuts, as they are full of imperfections).  So let’s get to it. Although I would have liked to make it a video clip, all I have now are words, written on the board. So I’ll try to do my best with what I have right now.

Just like each musician, writer, photographer or painter have their own styles,  each editor works in a different way. It may not be considered art by everyone, but video editing does take a bit of…inspiration. Let’s assume that a video editor needs to cut a new short clip, representing a trailer for a new episode in “The Walking Dead”. As the show does have its thrilling moments, the audio plays quite a role in the experience.  There are loud portions in a trailer, and quiet portions. The editor’s job, besides arranging the images to make up the story, is to make sure that the story lines up with the trailer’s soundtrack. You don’t have to be a specialist to notice if something’s wrong in a trailer. Sometimes, however, you don’t really know what’s wrong. In a lot of cases, it’s the images not syncing with the audio. The frame changes are done offbeat ( after the… “whoosh”  sound, for example) or the story gets really fast-paced, when the music is calm and peaceful. Although getting the right portion of the stories to align up with the fast-paced parts of tracks are quite easy, getting that fast, thrilling change of images “on the beat” may be a hard task.

Another important part of the video is the color palette. If the show is based on a dark, noire type of story, the colors need to match that feeling. Imagine how “The Walking Dead” would have looked like with bright, yellow-ish colors, or Big Bang Theory, with cold, blue and grey nuances. It would have ruined the story. Although the colors are sometimes being processed by the post-production team, not seldom do the editors themselves take responsibility in that aspect, as well (for many reasons, one of them being their style of work, as mentioned before).

To sum it up, the editor is the man responsible for making it all come into place nicely. The editor needs to have the eye for the job, but also a musical ear. The editor takes information from the director, sound director, special effects specialists and sometimes even from the actors themselves, to make sure that what we see it exactly what we’re supposed to see. Film-making is both an art and a science, and the editors play a very important role in the mix.

-Mircea

The Mockingbird Lane – The Munsters redone, under NBC

“Adams family” meets Fox Kids’s “Eerie Indiana: (if you remember that one), in a new NBC series. The Mockingbird lane is a re-imaging of the old 1960′s The Munster series, written by Bryan Fuller, and directed by Bryan Singer.
The show feels like a breath of fresh air, with a nice twist of fantasy, comedy and a bit of the horror world.
In a special, Fuller way, it’s all sort of sweet and charming while still being abnormal and unquestionably macabre. Here, hearts are quite literally broken; “the talk” means explaining to a young boy he’s a werewolf; and the circle of life includes suicidal deer as an awkward pretext as to why a deer gets eaten by a lion.
While there are some shortcomings, the high point would be the way the pilot handles the darkly comic dialogue. Fuller is, if nothing else, very clever and quite talented when it comes to endowing nearly all of his characters with the gift of gab.
And the pilot ends with a Dragon! If the rest of the goodies didn’t get you hooked, the dragon surely will!

The show is still under production, but the pilot episode paved the way to what will hopefully be a thrilling, fun ride.

Find out more about the series by following the link below:

http://www.nbc.com/mockingbird-lane/

Online TV Shows for free. Too good to be true?

It’s not a surprise we often turn to websites to watch our shows. Not all of us, TV enthusiasts, live in the US, where most of the magic happens. So, if we can, we’ll watch the shows online. If subscription services are available for us, in our countries, we’ll use them. Or better yet, we’ll just watch our shows on free websites. The episodes we’ve been longing to see are finally there, in the web, waiting for us to watch them, for free! No commercials, no interruptions, just us and our favorite shows. 

Does it seem too good to be true? In most cases, it really is too good to be true. Free sites that are streaming media content are usually illegal, and the legal ones always (or at least almost always) require a monthly fee to be paid. There are commercial clips to be watched before our streaming starts, unless we are premium users of some sort, and so on. So.. why pay for an account to watch our shows, when it’s so much more convenient to watch our shows for free, with no interruptions (maybe not necessarily in HD, but hey… we used to watch movies on VHS, right?)

Convenient as it may be, let’s remember a nice little show, called Chuck. Remember that nerdy salesman/repairman from BestBuy, who turns into a super-spy over-night, after downloading an FBI/CIA program into his brain? Add Yvonne Strahovski to the mix and you’ll get the rough idea… The show had to be canceled because it was no longer profitable for the studios. TV networks were always reporting less and less viewers, whereas the show was actually becoming more and more popular. How is that possible? Well, a lot of users (especially outside of the US) were watching Chuck online. Not necessarily via an official, legal site, but by other means. Do the studios get that information? Not really… or not in full, anyway… TV Shows are, after all, part of a business. We can think of the producers as being managers (may be a long stretch, but.. is it, now?). Their shows are small projects, or teams, which compose a big, strong company. If one of the teams is not performing properly, what does a manager do? At first, they would give the team members incentives, or warnings (depending on the HR strategy). Then, they would start firing and eventually, they would fire the whole team and close the project that was not working properly. 

What are the main aspects those “managers” have in mind, when viewing the”team’s” performance? Ratings. Good, old, fat or slim, ratings. Ratings help the studios decide whether a show should be kept or not. The higher the rating a show has, the better the commercials aired while the show is running on TV will pay. The better the commercials will pay, the higher the revenue of the TV station and the higher the revenue of the Studios. It may be pleasure for us, but it’s business to them. 

Of course, it’s not our fault we don’t have TV stations that would air the shows outside of US, UK and a few other states on the globe. So we’ll have to watch the shows in whatever manner we can, because we love watching them. 

First show in the scope: Big Bang Theory

With its funny view over the minds and actions of a few scientists, The Big Bang Theory started in 2007, and it’s still airing. Hopefully, it will continue to do so, for many years to come.  Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady’s creation soon became a favorite amongst the TV Show watchers.

It’s all about the science, right? Well, not really. Although the team does have quite a few scientists helping write the story, the show revolves around a few likeable characters, each with their own “je ne sais-quoi”.

It all starts when Leonard and Sheldon, two theoretical physicists, roommates, get back home. Just when they’re about to enter their apartment, Leonard notices their new neighbor from next door, the beautiful, blonde-haired Penny. Soon after, we’ll meet Raj and Howard, and Astrologist and an Engineer. I’ll have to stop here, as no spoilers are intended, but it will all be an exciting, fun ride. The sarcasm-impaired, brilliant Sheldon will always make you smile, with his funny comments and socially-awkward behavior.  As the show progresses, we are allowed to direct our attention to every character and their lives. The beautiful Penny, for example, began as the typical dreamer, soon-to-be singer/songwriter/actress. Later on, she seems to leave it all behind, as her story takes a new direction. A direction the fans were eager to see. And they were not disappointed. Howard, Raj, Leonard and Sheldon all get the chance to share their stories with us, and they will always manage to bring a smile, if not hysterical laughter, on our faces.

Do you like the show? Which moments made you laugh the hardest, and which stories appealed to you most? Write your opinions in the comments section, and share your thoughts with us.

 

Tag code: JESC42B6J9Z6

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.